Unsung Christian Martyr of the Nazi Regime?

Ben Macintyre  in his book Operation Mincemeat documents the covert operation by British intelligence to deceive the Germans, convincing them that the allies would not invade Sicily but instead would do a twofold invasion of Greece and Sardinia.  One of the ironic elements of the operation is that Ian Fleming, who became famous for writing James Bond spy novels, was part of British intelligence and he learned the ruse used to trick the Nazis from a novel he himself had read.

The book is interesting, reads like a novel at points, but also for my interests had way too much detail about each of the characters involved in the plot.  However, that detail brought to light the story of one German intelligence officer who ultimately may have been intentionally working to undermine the German war machine.   Macintyre writes:

“BARON ALEXIS VON ROENNE appeared, on the outside, to be the consummate Nazi intelligence officer: a veteran of the First World War, a wounded war hero, holder of the Iron Cross, loyal to his oath, and the Führer’s favorite intelligence analyst.  ‘Hitler had implicit faith in Von Roenne and in his reasoning ability, and seems to have liked him personally.’”   (Kindle Loc. 4201-4)

Macintyre claims that despite the early work he did to help the Nazis and to win Hitler’s trust, von Roenne was actually secretly working against the Nazi regime.

“Von Roenne was a secret but committed opponent of Nazism, living a double life. He detested Hitler and the uncouth thugs surrounding him. He was an old-fashioned monarchist with a military cast of mind…  His Christian conscience had been outraged by the appalling SS terror unleashed in Poland. Quietly, but with absolute conviction, he had turned against the Nazi regime. From 1943 onward, he deliberately and consistently inflated the Allied order of battle, overstating the strength of the British and American armies in a successful effort to mislead Hitler and his generals.”  (Loc. 4218-24)

“Whatever his reasons, and despite his reputation as an intelligence guru, by 1943 von Roenne was deliberately passing information he knew to be false, directly to Hitler’s desk. Von Roenne’s finest hour would come with the invasion of Normandy in 1944. In the buildup to D-day, he faithfully passed on every deception ruse fed to him, accepted the existence of every bogus unit regardless of evidence, and inflated forty-four divisions in Britain to an astonishing eighty-nine. Without von Roenne’s willing connivance, the entire elaborate net of deception woven for D-day might have unraveled.”  (Loc. 4229-35)

Macintyre attributes von  Roenne’s actions to his Christian beliefs.  Von Roenne was not directly involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, but he was friends with those who were and so was arrested by the Gestapo, tried and executed.  Macintyre reports that the Nazi records indicate:

“In his own defense, von Roenne simply declared that Nazi race policies were inconsistent with Christian values. On October 11, 1944, with other alleged conspirators, he was bound hand and foot in Berlin-Plötzensee Prison, hung on a meat hook, and left to die slowly. In an additional exercise in barbarity, Hitler ordered some of the executions to be filmed for his viewing pleasure. On the eve of his death, von Roenne wrote a martyr’s epitaph to his wife: ‘In a moment now I shall be going home to our Lord in complete calm and in the certainty of salvation.’ Von Roenne undoubtedly helped the Allies to win the war, but his precise reasons for doing so are an enduring mystery.”  (Loc. 4240-46)

Macintyre believes von Roenne intentionally misled Hitler and the German military leadership.   Whatever role he played in helping the Germans in the early part of the war was reversed by his intentional effort to subvert the Nazi war machine.  Whatever mixed motives may have guided him, it seems that in the end his Christian conscience over ruled his patriotism and his belief in belonging to an elite class of people.  Because of his Christian beliefs, he died witnessing to Christ in the face of complete evil.

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6 Responses to Unsung Christian Martyr of the Nazi Regime?

  1. Carol Bacha says:

    Dear Father Ted,

    Thank you for telling the story of Christian Martyr BARON ALEXIS VON ROENNE who intentionally misled Hitler in his military intelligence reports, and changed the course of WW11. Roenne’s reported death and martyrdom, by being hung on a meat hook and left to die slowly after his time in prison, follows the St. Paraskeva Movement dates of October 11/12, 1944.

    I have recently made major research strides in connecting dots of events told to me by Mother Alexandra, Princess Ileana of Romania, for this same time period. I look forward to reading the whole of the book by Ben MacIntyre. In the meantime I found this informative YouTube video by the author http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC2C-GiOQRE, which compares the novel OPERATION MINCEMEAT to the
    structure of a three act drama.

    Matushka Carol
    Christmas Monastery

    • Fr. Ted says:

      Matushka Carol,

      Thanks for your comment. I want to be clear that von Roenne is really mentioned in only 1 chapter of the book, and Christian martyrdom is not at all the subject of the book. Von Roenne’s actions were helpful to the intelligence deception which is the subject of the book, but he is mentioned in only a few pages as the book traces how the deception was accepted by Nazi leaders and then spread throughout the German military.

  2. rebelsprite says:

    I recently learned of a very inspirational movement in Germany, the White Rose. One of its Christian martyrs was Orthodox, actually. Alexander Schmorell is expected to be glorified as a saint! (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Alexander_Schmorell)

  3. Pingback: Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg « Großadmiral Karl Dönitz – Reichspräsident Deutsches Reich

  4. It isn’t the right way that a Christian should act. Christians throughout the most pagan Empire of all times, the Roman, never acted to overthrew the government. They always acted not against the Emperor, but for bring him to reason, by speeches, petitions, prayers, etc. When the pagan Emperor called them to fight for the sake of Empire, since that Christians weren’t obliged to swear for pagan idols, they fought faithfully.

    Orthodox Christians in USSR made a similar thing. In spite of millions of deaths due to Communism, when Stalin gave up his persecutions against the Church, they fought bravely for Russia. So, no. Roenne isn’t a good example on how a Christian should act under tyrannic conditions. He isn’t a martyr. He is otherwise, but not a martyr.

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